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Merritt Hospitality to Pay $125,000 to Settle EEOC Lawsuit

Hotel  Fired Employee With Asthma, Federal Agency Says

SAN DIEGO - The U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement of a  disability discrimination lawsuit against Merritt Hospitality, LLC and HEI  Hotels and Resorts, LLC, which have agreed to pay $125,000 and provide other  injunctive relief. This settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court of  Southern California.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, an  employee at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Diego was assigned to a workspace  that did not have ventilation or windows. These working conditions exacerbated  the employee's disability, causing significant breathing issues. The employee  immediately informed the company that she needed an accommodation for her  disability. The company failed to provide her with an effective accommodation.  Within days of this request, the employee was forced to the emergency room  where she remained overnight due to the severity of her condition. Instead of  engaging in the interactive process with the employee, the company fired her,  the EEOC charged.

Such conduct violates the Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for  the Southern District of California (U.S. EEOC v. Merritt Hospitality, LLC et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-0654 MMA-AGS)  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agreement through its  conciliation process. The court will maintain jurisdiction over this case for  the term of the five-year consent decree.

In addition to monetary relief, Merritt  Hospitality has agreed to retain an EEO monitor; appoint an internal ADA  coordinator; revise its written policies and procedures regarding compliance  with the ADA; create and maintain an accommodation log; implement training to  all employees on the ADA; develop a centralized tracking system for accommodation  requests and discrimination complaints; and submit annual reports to the EEOC  verifying compliance with the decree.

"The interactive process is an  integral part of the ADA and requests for accommodations must be taken  seriously," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles  District Office, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. "We are  encouraged that Merritt Hospitality and HEI Hotels and Resorts have put in  place meaningful measures to address disability discrimination and create a  more inclusive workplace."

Christopher Green, director of the  EEOC's San Diego Local Office, added, "The EEOC strives to dispel the stereotype  that providing  reasonable accommodations  will have a negative impact on employers. The injunctive relief put in place by  this decree will have a long-lasting effect on the company and all its  employees."

One of the six national priorities  identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the EEOC  to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including  issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other  possible issues.

The EEOC  advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting  employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.   Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.